An 8,000-year-old wooden boat, believed to be the oldest of its kind ever discovered in the world, has been unearthed in Uljin, 330 kilometers southeast of Seoul, a local research institute said Monday.
The remains of the fishing boat and a wooden oar, believed to be from the early Neolithic era, were unexpectedly found by researchers while they were going through an array of artifacts recovered near the area to be treated and preserved at the request of the Uljin County government, according to the Samhan Institute of Cultural Properties.
"The boat fragment and the oar were at first taken from the site of discovery as an entire lump of earth since both were badly corroded and their shapes were hard to recognize," the institute's director Kim Ku-geun said.
"We were able to identify exactly what these artifacts were while we were treating them for preservation."
The remains were originally uncovered in 2005 from around 180 cm below ground within the fourth occupation layer, indicating they are from the early part of the Neolithic period (8,000 B.C.-1,000 B.C.), according to the institute.
An occupation layer refers to a layer of relics that were utilized and left by a single culture, and is used to identify the time period during which the culture existed.
The boat fragment, found to be made of highly durable camphor wood, is 64 cm long, 50 cm wide, and 2.3 cm thick, and institute officials say the boat was likely plank-shaped. The oar is made of oak and is 170 cm long, up to 18 cm wide, and is 2.1 cm thick, with its blade shaped like a wide trapezoid.
Researchers say this is a "groundbreaking discovery that helps to explain a side of the daily life and economy of the Neolithic period," as the shape of the boat shows how advanced carpentry skills were 8,000 years ago.
The find is the second such discovery from the Neolithic period to be found in South Korea, as archaeologists excavated remains of another watercraft in the southeastern region of the country in 2005, which was also dated to be about 8,000 years old and viewed as the oldest boat remains found worldwide up until the latest find.
Archaeologists at the Uljin site found five occupation layers, and also stumbled upon a series of additional artifacts including 580 pottery items, 407 pieces of stoneware, such as fishing tools and mortars, and fishing hooks made of bones, according to researchers. (Yonhap)